Cotyledon barbeyi is a robust succulent with a large natural distribution ranging from north-eastern South Africa to Ethiopia. It thrives in a variety of conditions, ranging from full sunlight to semi-shade and much temperature and soil variation.
C. barbeyi flowers for a long time in the year, mainly in winter. Pendulous clusters of tubular red flowers on erect flower stems appear well above the foliage. The bulge at the base of the flower tube, as it enters the calyx, distinguishes the species from C. orbiculata.
The leaves are indicative of adaptation to variable conditions: some are broadly ovate, others are lanceolate to narrowly linear. The leaf colour range of the plant, from bright green or light green to dull greyish green, testifies to successful struggles of establishing itself in wide-ranging temperature and rainfall situations.